CPU Cooler Charts 2008, Part I - Loosing your Cool?

Cooler Charts 2008Cooler Charts 2008

It’s been over 7 years since Tom’s Hardware first published a comparative test of CPU coolers. At the time, there was a distinct lack of awareness regarding the importance of this component and a pronounced dearth of critical tests with knowledgeable analysis. In December of 2000, we published the first CPU cooler comparison worldwide, comparing 17 different models. Compared to today’s technology, the coolers of that time seem like amateurish and provisional designs. Many of the companies that are well-established brand names in cooling today only became aware of this very profitable field through our tests. While some companies have since exited stage left, others have evolved into real heavyweights.

Things became critical for AMD in September of 2001 when we published an article detailing how CPU cooler failure could lead to instant destruction of Athlon processors. The situation was remedied by integrating a thermal sensor and a protective circuit on the motherboards. Meanwhile, Tom’s Hardware has regularly published CPU cooler roundups and comparisons, with the field of candidates growing each time.

Around this time, Zalman, a company that has meanwhile become a well-known and respected brand, was only just getting started. Our first review of the young company’s products weren’t very favourable, either. However, things have really turned around for Zalman over the past two years, and the company created a real winner with its CNPS9700, which it introduced in the middle of 2006.

But enough history for now. Now the curtain opens for our largest comparative test of 2007/2008. In no other class of components are the differences between individual products as pronounced as they are today where CPU coolers are concerned. After all, the prospective buyer can’t tell what kind of cooling performance to expect just from looking at a cooler, let alone its retail box. Of course, it’s just as impossible to tell how difficult installation will be – and if the buyers relied on the veracity of the colourful marketing promises on the box, they’d be lost anyway. At any rate, more than 30 companies sent us their current creations for review.

The biggest comparison of all times - More than 80 CPU coolers in our Tom's Hardware Munich labThe biggest comparison of all times - More than 80 CPU coolers in our Tom's Hardware Munich lab

Companies represented in this test
3R SystemAntazoneArctic Cooling
AsusCoolermasterCoolink
CooljagEKLFoxconn
GigabyteGlacialtechHiper
Joujye DynatronMSINexus
NoctuaOCZScythe
SilentmaxxSilverstoneSpire
TacensThermaltakeTitan
VeraxWatercoolXigmatec
ZalmanZawardZerotherm

One thing that we can say in advance is that this group was good for quite a number of surprises. For example, some of the most well-known manufacturers, that have built their reputation on the quality of their products, have recently released some models that proved to be unusable in our test. Either they tortured our tester with a catastrophic installation procedure, disqualified themselves due to their (in our eyes) non-existent cooling performance or proved to be so loud in operation as to make any kind of concentrated work impossible.

Due to a number of abysmally bad test results that we have been witnessing over the past years, we have finally decided to introduce the test result “failed”. We hope this will help our readers to make educated decisions they won’t regret and save them the trouble of having to return unsuitable or simply defective products. In order to ensure that these “black sheep” stand out among the more than 80 test candidates, we have marked them accordingly in our product overview.